Building Confidence in Networking (Again)

The start of #HashtagHustler in August 2013, at SXSW V2V
The start of #HashtagHustler in August 2013, at SXSW V2V

Starting this month, I’m getting back into the networking game.

I realized last weekend (while planning out networking events to attend for this month and June), that in general, I hadn’t been as social the past couple of years. I had written about this in a previous blog post thinking that I had actually just burnt myself out in mid-2013 from committing to too many events.

I realize now that that was only part of the story.

In mid-2013, I closed down my first business, TAOpivot. During that summer, I was in flux about what my purpose in my life, my career was. Although I hit up the first annual SXSW V2V anyway, I realized that I no longer had much to talk about in terms of what I did for work. I was embarrassed.

And even though I started my second business (Ms. Kwong’s Baked Goods) shortly thereafter, I still didn’t feel like this was in alignment with what I wanted my career to look like. Don’t get me wrong: I loved baking, but it didn’t feel right for me in terms of a long-lasting career.

Therefore, I avoided social or networking events in the Denver area. I was uninterested in doing a 30-second pitch on what my business was about, because I knew I didn’t have the passion for it. So instead of fumbling along with the facade, I just opted out of attending many events. Hence, my absence in the Denver business and startup communities.

Since Hashtag Hustler has been officially established at the beginning of 2015 (I say that HH actually began in mid-2013 as well, but I didn’t have the full-fledged business concept fleshed out until this year), I have felt more encouraged to attend more events in town, to spread the word about my new, better-aligned business. Because I haven’t been so active in the business community the past two years, of course people don’t quite know me nor HH yet.

Luckily, my confidence is building back up from rock-bottom: I am ready to show Denver (and the world!) that Helene and Hashtag Hustler are ready to get back into the groove and build up business relationships again.

The Facade of Social Media

Do you really know me?
Do you really know me?

I go through periods of time where I am highly selective about the people I “friend”/connect with via Facebook and LinkedIn. Sometimes I don’t want to add people whom I only “know” through a Facebook Group or other forum; however, I feel like the worst people to add as Facebook friends are those who are friends of IRL friends.

Because that’s when people begin to feel like, “Oh, I know you because I know your friend.”

Frankly, no, no you don’t. You don’t know me and you shouldn’t act like you know me.

Which brings me to the main point of this post: we think we know these people we are all supposedly friends with on social media, but we really don’t. I know I had talked about this in a previous post of the whole comparison syndrome, and that things are never as they seem on social media. But this post is pointing out another aspect of that thought: when an acquaintance shares a piece of personal news (perhaps on the ‘bad news’ side of the spectrum), you may think you know how to react and how to respond to that person, but do you really think you do?

I am one of those people who just pops in and out of Facebook, not really staying consistent on the types of posts I share, so people who are “friends” with me there don’t get the full picture of what I’m going through (to get more of a full picture, they would also need to follow me on Twitter). Only if they’ve seen me recently in-person do they really know who I am or what’s been happening. If the last time they saw me was awhile ago, well then…they really should not assume they know all that has happened in my life, just like I try not to act knowledgeable on their lives.

This is the downside of technology: in the past, when we knew of friends of friends, they would just stay that way: distant connections. But in this modern age, we suddenly feel like we’re closer to friends of friends than we really are. It’s a delicate balance to maintain, and I feel like, if you’re not going to actively seek a more direct friendship/connection with the “friend of a friend”, then why even add them on Facebook?

I don’t think highly of people who think they can just sit there and lurk on acquaintances’ profiles, just waiting for that moment to pounce in and show “I REALLY KNOW YOU.”

Because really, NO. You really DON’T. 

Digital Fragility of Memories

The last photo from 2011 when I was visiting family in Montana.
The last photo from 2011 when I was visiting family in Montana.

I just made the unfortunate discovery that I now have absolutely no photos from August to December of 2011, which were my first months here in Denver. I am feeling shocked, saddened, angry….whatever other feeling one would have upon this discovery.

This is how this happened: I got a brand new laptop at the start of the year as a gift, and I told my sister Lisa that I would give her my own laptop. So I proceeded to transfer supposedly all my photos, music, and other files from my old computer onto my new computer and my cloud storage. Then, thinking I had transferred absolutely EVERYTHING over to the new computer, I deleted all my personal files on the old computer so there’d be space for my sister to save her files.

Somehow during the transferring process I overlooked the fact that I somehow didn’t get any photos from August to December 2011 transferred over…hence my discovery of this situation today. I was for photos from that time period since it is National Siblings Day and thought of one photo I had taken with a couple of my siblings that Christmas. Well, that photo is no more unless my brother Adam has it.

This whole situation reminds me of how ten years ago, I lost all photos I had taken from January to June 2005 because my computer had crashed that June, wiping all of the memory off of the computer. I hadn’t had a chance to make prints from any photos from that semester in school, so those photos are forever gone as well. I remember I cried so hard when I realized what had happened–none of those memories will ever be seen again!

Just goes to show that sometimes technology isn’t the greatest thing in the world: with a simple little mistake like what I had done, all those precious photos are gone for good. All that’s left is whatever memories I may have from those periods of time, and over time, those memories fade in my mind.

Maybe I should think about getting all my digital photos printed again. I used to do this last decade when it was still “cool” to make physical prints of digital photos.

Why must we stay “different” to each other?

My friend Shay aka Black Girl in Maine just wrote a blog post about killing a child’s spirit by letting him or her know that he or she is “different”. Reading the post and about how her adult son observed this sad moment at her daughter’s school made me hurt inside: how is it that we as a society continue to segregate, to draw these silos up and make our peers feel “different”?

Thought I had a normal childhood, but my classmates reminded me that wasn't the case.
Thought I had a normal childhood, but my classmates reminded me that wasn’t the case.

Reading Shay’s post made me reflect back on my own childhood and remember how my classmates made sure I knew I was different: the taunts on the school bus of “Chinese, Japanese, dirty knees, look at these!” and kids pulling their eyes back and laughing at me; my younger brother, Adam, being made fun of by his classmates after school and he was so angry he cried (and I tried to defend him but the kids were relentless); the subsequent visit to the principal’s office to get those guys reprimanded but they were let off the hook (yes, why would people believe the Chinese kids anyway?); and so on and so forth. I could go on and on about all the times we were reminded that we were “different” in our school.

Even to this day (and I know I’ve written about this topic earlier this year) I still feel my “other”-ness reflected upon me in Denver (yes, a major city!). It angers me that, over the course of my life, things haven’t changed for kids. Things are not better in many parts of the country; in fact, they may be worse!

Why must we continue to do this to one another? How can we change the conversation to being more about how we’re more similar than different? Yet we continue to only see our skin colors and make judgments, even on children.

UPDATE: Just read this passage in Eddie Huang’s memoir, “Fresh Off the Boat”, and it really resonates with this post and Shay’s post:

To this day, I wake up at times, look in the mirror, and just stare, obsessed with the idea that the person I am in my head is something entirely different than what everyone else sees. That the way I look will prevent me from doing the things I want; that there really are sneetches with stars and I’m not one of them. I touch my face, I feel my skin, I check my color every day, and I swear it all feels right. But then someone says something and that sense of security and identity is gone before I know it.

 

Fleeting Moments

Cozy fireplace at Beaver Creek.
Cozy fireplace at Beaver Creek.

 

My parents visited Colorado from March 21st to the 30th; during that time, we ate out at the few good Chinese restaurants, visited my dad’s old friend in Greeley, and spent time with the rest of our family (my siblings, their spouses and kids) in Beaver Creek.

During my parents’ visit, the topic of death came up several times: my dad’s friend’s wife passed away from cancer last year. Now, my dad’s friend lives alone in his house with his daughter visiting weekly since she lives nearby; his son is out of state, though. My dad and his friend sat and chatted for a bit about other friends passing away and how my parents have even ‘joked’ with one another about what would happen if one of them passed away before the other.

Another mention of death was when I asked my brother-in-law about their one surviving dog (used to have two: the older dog was put to sleep a couple years ago), and he told me that Mike had passed away only a couple weeks ago. The last time I saw Mike the lab, he was already wheezing with a strange cough, but he held on for the past year and a half. My brother-in-law said Mike passed away in the middle of the night and they buried him along with their other dog and cats that had passed away beforehand.

Death is an uncomfortable topic, but it is inevitable. How do we know we’ll see our loved ones the next day? During my parents’ visit, I found myself frustrated quite a few times with their lectures and their nagging at me, but then I also felt guilty feeling that way. After all, my parents aren’t getting any younger; their health seems fine for now, but our family medical history isn’t exactly too stellar. I remind myself to cherish every moment with my parents, both good and bad.

Our time on earth is ephemeral so we must be thankful for each moment spent with one another.